You bought a used car that turns out to be problematic and has issues that you did not anticipate. Previously, it can be rather tricky to find a suitable recourse but with the introduction of the Lemon Law, you as a consumer are now more protected against such situations.
Under the Lemon Law, if you identify a problem within 6 months of the purchase of your used car, it is presumed that the defect existed at the time of the sale and lemon law provisions will therefore apply. However, if the seller of the car can prove that the defect did not exist at the time of the sale, then you might have to bear the cost of repairs.
Alan wants to buy a car from XYZ Motors. He went through the Standard Vehicle Assessment Report before the purchase and found that the car was in a satisfactory condition. He then bought the car on 1st Jan 2017.
On 1st June 2017 (5 months after purchase), he found that the brakes were making a weird noise. Upon inspection, it was found that the brake pads were close to wearing out.
Alan then decides to bring the matter to XYZ Motors to get them to replace the brake pads as the defect was found within 6 months of purchase. However, XYZ Motors records shows that the vehicle’s brake pads at the point of the sale were in good, operating condition.
The brake pads faded prematurely due to Alan’s excessive and hard braking, resulting in the noise he hears when he brakes. XYZ Motors also pointed out that if the brake pads were worn at the time of sale, Alan would have heard the weird noise well before the 5 months.
In this case, it was proven that XYZ Motors was in the right, and Alan caused the defect. He will therefore have to bear the cost of repairs.
So before assuming that the defect was caused by the seller, think the process through to ensure you did not contribute to it.
In another scenario, in which the brake pads were worn at the point of sale and that XYZ Motors are in the wrong, Alan can get XYZ Motors to repair or replace the defect. If XYZ Motors are unable to repair or replace the defects within a reasonable time or without significant inconvenience to the buyer, then Alan can ask for a reduction in price or a refund.
Brake pads usually take about an hour to replace. If XYZ Motors took 2 weeks to replace it, it can be argued that the repair was not done in a reasonable time, and Alan can ask for a reduction in price of the car or a refund.
Methods of Recourse :
Suppose that now XYZ Motors is in the wrong, but they refuse to replace or repair the defect. Alan has tried to negotiate with XYZ Motors multiple times, but is unable to find a solution. Alan can find a recourse by :
- Small Claims Tribunal if the claim amount is no more than $10,000 (raised to $20,000 if both parties agree), within 1 year of delivery of product.
- Filing a complaint with CASE, whose Customer Relations Officer will then assess the case and provide advice.
- Negotiations with the dealer have stalled and are not going anywhere. This could be the time for a mediation. Mediation seeks to find an amicable solution to the problem. If a solution cannot be found, the officer will reassess the case and continue pursuing the matter, or recommend other alternatives.
- Arbitration. For those who’d like to seek free legal advice from an officer.
Lastly, you can seek the services of a lawyer if you’d like to commence legal action against the dealer. This could be for more serious cases where both dealer and consumer are truly unable to find a solution after mediation and constant negotiation.
- When did Lemon Law come into effect?
It came into effect on 1st September 2012.
- If the dealer replaces the defect, does that extend the cover of lemon law by another 6 months?
No. However, lemon law provisions (mediation etc.) are still available to the buyer if he can prove that the replacement does not conform to the contract (was unsatisfactory)
- What is considered a ‘proper replacement’?
Proper replacement can be considered when the replacement or repair is of a condition that is expected by the buyer at the point of sale.
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